Major League Soccer is back.
The game in the USA has grown rapidly and has returned bigger and shinier than ever.
You may be familiar with one of the league’s biggest stars from last season – Newcastle United’s Miguel Almiron was the lynchpin in Atlanta United’s MLS Cup win last year.
Although his former team-mate Josef Martinez picked up MLS’ Most Valuable Player award after breaking the league’s scoring record in 2018.
And we’ve run through five players who look set to have a huge impact on this season’s competition.
Ezequiel Barco – Atlanta United
Barco was knocking about last year, but was firmly in the shadows of Almiron and Martinez who were guiding ATL to the title.
He did make 31 appearances in MLS in 2018, but his designated player status may weigh a little heavier this time round.
After gaffer Tata Martino left in the off-season as well, Atlanta needed some stability. Barco is still only 19-years-old but has already bagged this campaign.
His link up with big-hitters Josef and new-signing Pity Martinez could become key if the 7/1 third favourites are to retain their gong. This could really be Barco’s breakthrough.
Carles Gil – New England Revolution
Carles Gil – remember him? The tricky playmaker that was charged with dragging Aston Villa’s sinking ship to Premier League safety.
Villa’s eventual relegation was no real slight on him and three years on he’s rocked up in the US at New England Revolution.
He arrives as the team’s sole designated player in the hope of shooting his new side into the play-off latter rounds for the first time since 2014.
Carlos Vela – Los Angeles FC
The king of the chip! The former Arsenal forward won cult-hero status among Gunners fans for his cheeky finishes at the start of the decade.
After a brief stint at West Bromwich Albion and a better one at Real Sociedad, he found his way to L.A in January 2018.
Manager Bob Bradley has challenged him to be as good as Lionel Messi this season. That could be a tall order, but some believe Los Angeles may have the best player in the league right now.
One thing is for sure, Vela will be crucial if they are to bag the title at 6/1.
Nicolas Lodeiro – Seattle Sounders
European footy fans may remember this guy from his spell as an enigmatic playmaker at Ajax.
Lodeiro recorded a goal and an assist in Sounders win over Chicago Fire a week ago. This prolificacy in front of goal has seen the Argentina top the MLS assist chart.
He owes much to team-mate Jordan Morris after the striker’s three-goal haul so far this season.
Lodeiro is quite capable of ripping up the league this year – if you haven’t checked his assist against Fire then what are you waiting for?!
Darwin Quintero – Minnesota United
The 31-year-old may have been mocked in some quarters for suggesting Minnesota United – who finished tenth in the Western Conference last year, could ‘become champions’ this year.
However, no-one is laughing right now as the streaky forward has bagged three goals and hat-trick of assists in his first four games of the campaign.
After running up 11 goals and laying on 13 more last season, Quintero is rightly held in high regard as a MLS all-star.
A diamond in the rough you could say.
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